Ivan Noel

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Iván Noel (1968 - 2021) was a Spanish producer and director, known for They Returned (2015), En tu Ausencia (2008) and Primaria (2010). In their July, 2009 journal, Camilo José Cela University compared his works to that of Truffaut and Comencini.[1] He originally started in the arts by writing and performing his own musical compositions. The transition from music to film came from his love for combining and juxtaposing the two art forms in order to make something greater than the two by themselves.

“I was having a hard time finding the sort of films to put my own music to, so I began shooting small scenes for specific pieces of mine. From small scenes I made short movies, then eventually went on to write and produce feature films. All that just to showcase my music! There must have been a cheaper way, but it was more fun this way.”

–Iván Noel[2]

Since those first small scenes, he has gone on to release nine feature films. All of the movies, despite their different plots, characters, and other thematic elements, share the commonality of confronting moral issues without yielding to the conventions of political correctness.

Ivan Noel

Early Life

Noel was born in 1968 in Beirut. His mother is Australian and his father is French. He speaks four languages.[3] His family was well-to-do but "nomadic resulting in him attending 8 different schools and living in 12 different countries.[4]

I started taking pictures when I was about 9 or 10. Then I bought an 8mm camera, and started shooting immediately. It was a very violent film about social injustice, acted by a crazed (11-year-old) beggar who had had enough. He took out his frustration by banging his head against tree trunks. It was a rather loose script and involved about 200 children from my own school (Lancing College), and was shot during playtime. It ended with the protagonist’s insane run through town and forest, ending when he (my best friend) bangs against a dead-end traffic sign."[5]

He has a BA in education and composing soundtracks from the University of York[6] and began his career as professor in the field of music, composing and giving concerts as a solo classical guitarist and piano player.

Film making

Noel entered the audiovisual world first through the production of short films. He won important prizes in Europe both for his photography (Best New Artists at the Petit Palais’ ‘Salon d’Automn’ exhibitions, Paris), but also his compositions (finalist winner of the British Songwriting competition in 2006.[7] In 2006 he decided to sell his house to finance the filming of his first feature film, In Your Absence (2008). About that film he said he is in debt to the realism of director Ken Loach . This film was shot between Jerez and the Sierra de Cádiz. It was a low budget production made ​​with unknown actors, but it woke the interest of critics. The film was featured in several festivals, including Vancouver, Palm Springs, Chicago, Bahamas, Athens, etc. In Vancouver the film finished fifth out of more than 200 films. Vanguard International Cinema distributed the film in North America.[8] Interestingly, the film has not been released or distributed in Spain.

For the next project, the director moved to a town of Seville, Lebrija. He lived there for a year to study the local people so that cast them correctly. For funding, Noel, lacking a budget, raised the money through donations. He arranged free rentals of shooting locations and the actors volunteered to work for free. It was recorded during the summer of 2008, and was released in 2009 with the title of of Gap later to be changed to Brecha. It opened to small premires in Spain, and was received with praise by it's audiences.[9] [10]

In 2010 he released Primaria, his third feature film. He shot it in the school San Francisco de Paula in Seville. He spent a year there teaching the children art. Since it was the first time in film making history that the same teacher of the children was also their director in a film, Noel believed that this would increase the naturalness in the representation of scenes by the child actors, creating a very favorable context to get real emotions and situations experienced. In this sense, Noel likes to say this film is "a story with children where nothing is invented, even the most unlikely thing."[11] Noel defines the film as "a comedy about the bowels of the primary starring three students, Jose Joaquin, Carlos and Carmen." The film also portrays the life of the faculty, focusing mainly on three of them. Noel manages to convey the personal lives of these teachers beyond their work without reaching the use of narration.

With Vuelve, commercially released in 2012, Noel moves into the horror genre. Filmed in Argentina , it is about a boy who loses his mother under strange circumstances. She communicates with him from beyond the grave, seeking a reunion. The film premiered on October 12, 2011 at the Festival of Unusual Cinema of Buenos Aires.[12][13] His next project, Limbo was released in 2013. One reviewer noted:

Director Iván Noel is oddly missing from the roster of international directors assured an American release. Six films into his career, his curious blending of drama and uncanny elements would seem like a natural fit, akin to (but more optimistic than) Alex van Warmerdam (Borgman). He delved into horror with 2013's Vuelve, and with Limbo (to use its original Argentinian title) and this year's They Returned, it marks an interesting twist in his career.

It's undoubtedly a twist of note. He finds children of suitable maturity for the vampire orphanage and draws surprisingly nuanced performances from each of them, never relying on any one too much for the drama. No surprise for a former teacher that spent 20 years in classrooms. His tone here is of quizzical comedy, rather than existential angst. He isn't afraid to get bloody, either, with a side-plot about an ongoing war between local vampire hunters and Dracula's grandson. But he's mostly playful. After all, his vampires are not adults in children's bodies. They're very old children. Imagine being stuck in your acne phase for eternity, or never going through puberty: That's who they are, in all their chuckling glee.[14]

Loosely inspired by an event that took place in Memphis during the 1990s, They Returned turns on the strange disappearance of three children from their small town, and their reappearance three days later in a semi-autistic state.

“They Returned” is a “thriller with strong supernatural elements, drawing on a political historical context,” explained Betina Goldman, from long-running Latin America and horror specialist One Eyed. “We see great festival and critical recognition potential in the works,” she added. [15]


His films are also somewhat controversial because almost all of them feature child nudity. He also did an interview[16] in issue 03 of Destroyer Magazine, a publication which has received criticism for allegedly "sexualising" children.[17] He responds to this controversy:

So why is my film deemed controversial? …Dear God, today taking a picture of your own baby child in the bath is controversial! Silly, silly values of a society gone slightly nuts: complete loss of references: hysteria that is causing voluntary amnesia about what being young was about. Again, the predominance of morally regressive values, from a bored and overly wealthy society that has nothing other to do than point fingers just to exist, and score more socially correct points than the neighbor.

The worst of it, the most inexcusable and shocking, is that even artists these days partake of that silly game. We live in a new type of Victorian age, and as we now laugh at how they used to cover the legs of pianos, and dress horses up, we will be the laughing stock of future generations.[18]


On 19 July 2021, Noel's body was found in Alta Gracia. He left a farewell video.[19][20] Cause of death is an apparent suicide.[21]
(see BoyWiki News Article: Film Maker Ivan Noel Passes)

List of Films

See also

External links


  1. www.ucjc.edu/files/pdf/press/resumendeprensa7-8jul09.pdf
  2. http://www.noelfilms.com/about/
  3. [http://www.semanarioprimerdia.com.ar/2012/03/con-ninos-actores-locales-se-viene.html "Con niños actores locales se viene filmando “Limbo”: una película sobre vampiros"
  4. http://www.artsploitationfilms.com/film/children-of-the-night/
  5. http://www.theskykid.com/exclusive-interview-director-ivan-noel-of-en-tu-ausencia/
  6. http://www.lebrijadigital.com/web/component/content/article/268-uncategorised/1438-mas-de-400-personas-acudieron-a-los-dos-pases-con-que-conto-el-preestreno-de-brecha-de-ivan-noel
  7. http://www.artsploitationfilms.com/film/children-of-the-night
  8. http://www.amazon.com/EN-AUSENCIA-GONZALO-SANCHEZ-SALAS/dp/B001TK2986
  9. http://www.lebrijadigital.com/web/component/content/article/268-uncategorised/1438-mas-de-400-personas-acudieron-a-los-dos-pases-con-que-conto-el-preestreno-de-brecha-de-ivan-noel
  10. http://www.europapress.es/cultura/noticia-andalucia-sevilla-teatro-juan-bernabe-abanderara-preestreno-brecha-film-rodado-lebrija-frances-ivan-noel-20090225133337.html
  11. "Ivan Noel graba su tercer largometraje en el sevillano colegio San Francisco de Paula"
  12. http://www.asalallena.com.ar/festivales-all/noticias/programacion-vii-festival-de-cine-inusual-de-bs-as/
  13. http://festivaldecineinusual.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/horarios-vii-festival-de-cine-inusual.html
  14. {{cite news |last=Whittaker |first=Richard |date=Oct. 31, 2015 |title="DVDanger: This Is Halloween Unconventional horror for the haunting time" |url=http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/screens/2015-10-31/dvdanger-this-is-halloween/ |newspaper=Austin Chronicle |access-date=May 3, 2016
  15. {{cite news |last=Mayorga |first=Emilio |date=December 3, 2014 |title="One Eyed Takes ‘They Returned’" |url=https://variety.com/2014/film/global/one-eyed-takes-they-returned-1201370695/ |newspaper=variety.com |access-date=May 3, 2016
  16. https://archive.is/zhFDm
  17. http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article10844674.ab
  18. http://www.theskykid.com/exclusive-interview-director-ivan-noel-of-en-tu-ausencia/
  19. Final non sad goodbye to my friends By: Iván Noel
  20. "Noel se despidió con un video: "Nunca le hice daño a la gente, menos a los más vulnerables"", 19 July 2021. 
  21. Hallaron muerto al cineasta Ivan Noel, no descartan “autodeterminación